L.A. Churches Promise Sanctuary for Migrant Families as ICE Raids Begin Sunday

A dozen churches in the Los Angeles area have declared themselves sanctuaries for migrant families as the Trump administration's immigration crackdown was scheduled to begin Sunday.

With President Donald Trump publicizing the mass deportations targeting about 2,000 people with deportation orders, the renewed threats have put immigrant communities in ten cities, including Los Angeles, on edge.

The First Baptist Church of Maywood on East 57th Street is one of the churches offering sanctuary in L.A. county.

Pastor Melvin Valiente said the church has received several calls from people whose lives have been affected by the announcement of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.

“This is an attempt to destroy families, and we, as Christians and pastors, we believe in the unity of families, so that’s why we try to protect them,” Valiente said of the deportation raids.

The pastor said he believes the migrants targeted by Trump's crackdown are being "persecuted."

"I call it persecution because now they feel someone is going after them and they have fear," Valiente said. “We cannot be living with this fear in us, because our kids are watching us.”

Valiente said migrants can seek shelter at the church and urged community members to remain calm, especially for the children that may be affected by the raids.

“I believe that it is a great action of love from part of us to these families that are in need," said Michelle Cubias, a member of the Maywood church. 

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles said they've received calls from people requesting information about what their rights are if confronted by ICE agents, spokesman Jorge-Mario Cabrera told KTLA on Sunday.

The advocacy group said their hotline received 25 calls from migrant families by 11 a.m., but none of them had been arrested or detained by immigration officials, he said.

At the North Hills United Methodist Hispanic Mission, Rev. Fred Morris looked out over his congregation and was relieved to see everyone who usually attends the early Sunday morning service. He had worried many would stay home, fearing Trump's threat of immigration sweeps.

"Everybody is nervous," Morris said. "They are angry, very angry at being terrorized by our president."

Morris said the mere threat of roundups has already spread widespread fear in the community. He says he counseled his largely Hispanic congregation on what to do if agents arrive: don't open the door, don't answer questions.

Many houses of worship in other cities and states have also declared themselves immigrant sanctuaries.

Guillermo Torres, with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, says more churches have become involved than ever before, which he attributes to a growing sense of indignation at the administration's actions on immigration.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, wrote a letter to Archdiocese priests this month saying, "Threats of broad enforcement actions by ICE are meant to terrorize communities." He urged priests in the Archdiocese — which serves over 2 million Catholics — not to let any immigration officials into churches without identification or a warrant.

In a video posted on Twitter, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti reminded migrants that they don’t have to let ICE agents in without a warrant and that they have the right to remain silent, record all information and speak to a lawyer.

"You do not need to be afraid," Garcetti said. "Your city is on your side."

L.A. police Chief Michel Moore also appeared in the video, emphasizing that LAPD "is not assisting ICE in any way" and that its officers do not perform the job of federal law enforcement officials.

"We are here to protect and serve all the people of Los Angeles, regardless of their immigration status," Moore said.

Activists and city officials reported some ICE activity in New York and Houston Saturday, but it was unclear if it was part of the same coordinated operation.

A Houston advocacy group FIEL said two people were arrested there Saturday and in New York City, three incidents involving ICE took place on Saturday, but agents didn't succeed in rounding up residents, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

 

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